Settlement talk starts in duck boat suit

May 8, 2012 at 3:28 PM

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PHILADELPHIA, May 8 (UPI) -- The civil trial over a deadly collision in Philadelphia between a tourist boat and a barge was suspended Tuesday, suggesting a settlement is being worked out.

WCAU-TV reported the parties were in conference before another judge. U.S. District Judge Thomas O'Neill Jr., who is hearing the case without a jury, halted testimony in the early afternoon on the second day of the trial.

Two Hungarian visitors, Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, who were in Philadelphia with a church group, were killed when an amphibious duck boat was hit by a barge on the Delaware River in July 2010. At issue is whether Ride the Ducks or K-Sea Transportation Partners, which owns the tug boat involved in the crash, shares greater responsibility and whether the amount of damages should be limited to $1.8 million, the value of the boats involved, as set by maritime law.

Matt Devlin, the first mate of the tugboat, was sentenced to a year in prison for the crash. He was distracted by news of a medical emergency involving his son and was on his cell phone and laptop computer just before the collision.

Ride the Ducks could be found liable for the crash as well. The captain of the duckboat brought it to a complete stop in the middle of the river because he saw what appeared to be smoke and feared a fire. The smoke was later determined to be steam.

On Monday, the judge saw video of Schwendtner throwing her life jacket to a member of the duckboat crew, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported..

"Sixteen-year-old Dora Schwendtner throws her life preserver to Kyle Burkhardt to save his life, and because of the defendants' failures, she lost hers," said Robert Mongeluzzi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

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